Most of us are lucky that we haven’t seen or experienced wars, but what Calgary and southern Alberta residents went through was no worse than being in a war. Calgarians woke up last Friday to see emergency declared in their city and downtown Calgary looked like a war zone. Practically everything came to a standstill. Roads leading to downtown were closed and it appeared as if the city was under siege. In the residential areas, there were helicopters hovering overhead, soldiers and RCMP officers going door-to-door checking if everyone was safe and heavy equipment transporting people and clearing area on the affected streets.
Friday was the worst day as offices, schools and other institutions were closed to minimize traffic and avoid any more problems. Even several hospitals and continuing care centres had to relocate patients from flood-affected areas. Twenty four communities in Alberta had declared local states of emergency, indicating the grave situation that the province was undergoing.
“Our highest priority is indeed the safety and the care of our patients as well as the health of our citizens despite the challenges facing us,” Dr. David Megran, the chief medical officer with Alberta Health Services said.
Canmore was the first municipality to declare a state of emergency. Highway 1, the Trans-Canada Highway, was closed due to the road being washed off. That meant that the vital route connecting Canada’s recreational playground was closed. No one could visit Canmore, Banff or Kananaskis. We had guests from England and we were planning to spend the weekend in Canmore/Banff area when the floods happened, washing away our intentions with them. A fiend of mine, a Calgary resident, who has a business in Canmore, was unable to open his business for four days and it is doubtful if he’ll be able to so soon.
A relative whose daughter had a wedding reception in Canmore on Saturday had to quickly switch plans and was forced to adopt plan B. They were lucky to arrange her wedding reception at a Calgary hotel at such a short notice. Guests who were informed on time were able to come to the new venue while others were left to chance. There will be many more such unheard stories where people’s plans had been dashed and they were forced to find alternatives.
Perhaps the biggest tragedy is the Stampede grounds, which is completely flooded. We were invited to a communal function in the Saddledome and were notified on Friday
that it had to be cancelled. Together with 10,000 other Calgarians, I was not worried about missing the event as much as I was concerned about the Calgary Stampede, which is scheduled to begin in about two week. It is my earnest hope that this Greatest Show on Earth should proceed as planned and that the Stampede authorities clean up in readiness for the opening. Latest report indicates that the hockey arena had been damaged with players’ room and equipment also damaged, together with some seats in the public area.
I salute the thousands of volunteers and emergency preparedness personnel who went into action the moment tragedy struck Calgary and several communities in Southern Alberta. Neighbours, relatives and friends opened their homes to those affected by the floods and many people took them in by providing accommodation and food. The whole community joining forces to cope up with disastrous situation is a testimony of their spirit, generosity and helpful nature.
Municipal, provincial and federal officials – all the three tiers of government – converged in Calgary to offer help and moral support. It was nice to see Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, Premier Allison Redford and Prime Minister Stephern Harper – three powerful Calgarians – combine forces to battle the floods. We still don’t what kind of assistance residents can expect from these politicians who call Calgary their home.
Early reports show that it would not be until mid-week when the downtown core is back to normal. It looks like Calgarians will have to still put up with some hardships a little longer before they can expect their lives to be back to normal. On top all that is happening, the city announced voluntary water restrictions to residents. Calgarians were urged to limit showers, diswasher and washing machine use and toilet flushing because high levels of debris and silt coming into the city’s drinking water treatment plants were slowing down their function. The city also urged residents to avoid using telephones for fear that the city’s phone lines get overwhelmed.
More grime news followed as the Insurance Bureau of Canada announced that homeowners hoping to lodge claims for flood damage wouldn’t get help for water that poured through doors or basement windows. “You’re not covered. There’s no overland flooding coverage in Canada, a spokesman said. Property owners have been urged to check their policies.
The flood didn’t dampen the spirit of Calgary residents. I am sure they will be able to cope with whatever comes in the next few days.